Monday, February 20, 2012

50th Anniversary of John Glenn's Flight

Monday morning, and once again my part of the world is graced with a beautiful winter day.  27 degrees, blue skies, and no moisture falling from the sky. What the heck is going on up there.

Fifty years ago today, my generation was glued to our Zenith television sets as John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in Friendship 7.  The flight was risky, and the stakes were high as the U.S. and Russia vied to dominate the planet.  Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961, had already taken first place by making one orbit around the Earth and the following August cosmonaut Gherman S. Titov made 17 orbits.

Glenn orbited the Earth three times in 88 minutes and 29 seconds.  He flew 75,679 miles and reached a speed of 17,544 miles per hour.

U.S. Marine Pilot
U.S. Senator
Why was his spacecraft called the Friendship 7?  Well, the 7 represented the seven original Mercury astronauts (Glenn, Shepard, Grissom, Carpenter, Schirra, Cooper, and Slayton.)  As for the name Friendship, this is what John Glenn wrote in his memoir......

"I had several ideas, but I was trying very hard to keep Dave and Lyn (his children) involved and make them feel a part of my mission.  I asked them if they would be willing to think about some names.  I said, 'There's only one ground rule.  The world is going to be watching, so the name should represent our country and the way we feel about the rest of the world.'  They pored over a thesaurus and wrote dozens of names in a notebook.......At the top of the list was their first choice:  Friendship.  I was  so proud of them.  They had chosen perfectly."